SPOKANE, Wash. — Firefighters are enduring harsh conditions as the Inland Northwest continues to experience extreme temperatures. A local fire chief said strict training is helpful.
The sun burns hot as firefighters work across the state, but the flames up close feel hotter to wild land firefighters.
When temperatures reach 100 degrees or above, Spokane County Fire District 3 Chief Cody Rohrbach said it is not uncommon for firefighters to experience heat-related illness.
"During hot line construction, firefighters are probably exposed to 130 degrees, 150 degrees," Chief Rohrbach said. "They are wearing, of course, heavy leather boots and they are also wearing their protective clothing. Then on top of it they have their fire line gear that weighs on average anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds. Not only are they exposed to the ambient air temperature, they are right next to a fire."
Rohrbach said firefighters train early before wildfire season begins.
Crews go through heat-related illness training so they know the signs and symptoms and how to remedy this. They also make sure they are in top physical shape, know how to manage electrolyte levels and even practice what is called "work hardening," or training in conditions of extreme heat.
Before firefighters head to the scene of a wildfire, they also have a safety briefing where they are reminded to watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion and stay hydrated.
Rohrbach said it's important for firefighters to remember to pace themselves.
"It's not a sprint, wildland firefighting is a marathon," Rohrbach said.